Feature | Taekwondo

Introducing Abdullah Sediqi – refugee taekwondo athlete and Olympic hopeful

The IOC Refugee Athlete Scholar on how taekwondo could provide him an outlet to compete at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics in 2021

By ZK Goh ·

IOC Refugee Athlete Scholarship holder Abdullah Sediqi has relied on taekwondo to get him by since he was eight years old.

The sport, which he now practises in Belgium, has been a guiding light through difficult times, first when escaping from his war-torn country then again through the coronavirus pandemic.

Afghanistan native Sediqi, fearing for his life after threats from gangs due to his sporting ability, fled to Europe four years ago.

"It was a gruelling mission, there were days I walked for 12 hours straight," he said of his escape.

Now established in Wilrijk, a neighbourhood of Antwerp, the 24-year-old is targeting the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games this summer in 2021 – and his recent results back his claim.

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While Sediqi is fully focussed on his dream of going to the Olympic Games, the real world provided an emotional blow to him this past year.

In a recent interview with Taekwondo Vlaanderen (Flanders Taekwondo), he revealed that he was not able to see his mother before her death from the coronavirus.

"My mother died of coronavirus six months ago," he said. "Her death was difficult for me – I had not seen her since my arrival in Belgium. Suddenly, you are told she is seriously ill; a while later she was gone.

"That's tough, but I have to move on."

Taekwondo has provided an outlet for him to channel his emotions.

His training sessions in Wilrijk with coach Alireza Naser Azadani have paid off, as he won silver at the 2019 Spanish Open and bronze at the 2020 Dutch Open, in addition to representing World Taekwondo as a refugee athlete at the 2019 World Championships in Manchester where he reached the last-64 in his weight category.

"Those performances reflect my feeling in the team and that is good," he said to Taekwondo Vlaanderen.

"At the moment my big goal is to reach the Tokyo Olympics. There are a few places available for Refugee Team athletes across the different sports.

"Of all those candidates, I have one of the better rankings. So the dream of going is certainly not unrealistic."

Speaking to the Tokyo 2020 website last year, Sediqi said being a Refugee Athlete Scholarship holder was a "moment of peace".

"Countries can come together (through) sport, it doesn't matter who you are. Black, white, woman, man, or what(ever) country they're from.

"At the Olympics (they're all) from one place."

And, if he makes it to Tokyo, there is one man he especially wants to face.

"Lee Dae-Hoon," he said referring to the two-time Olympic medallist from South Korea.

"I want to beat him. He is the (best) fighter in the world."